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Seasons

March 29, 2015

In recent years, I’ve become more and more aware of the phrase, “Seasons of Life.”  It never dawned on me when I was young and in college that life could be described seasonally.  It was more linear then.  Seasons implies a cyclical nature– times of dying and hibernation, times of dormancy, times of growth, and times of just surviving the heat (at least that’s our Central Texas season).

What brought about this seasonal introspection?

I was laughing at myself this past week about my former struggle with acedia.  Acedia, I thought.  What a novel and somewhat appealing problem to have, I reflected as I watched my week become fuller and fuller until I was sure it would all over flow.  What is it like to not know how to fill my time? I wondered as I debated if the laundry would really get washed (much less folded and put away) and groceries would ever be bought.  Time for restlessness and searching seemed luxurious as I wondered if I could grade papers at the boy’s baseball game of if that was being a “bad mother.”

Gentleness.

There’s my word for the year again.  As I was chastising and mocking myself with my struggle with acedia back with the littles were actually little, I remembered my word.

All of which brought me to my seasonal introspection.

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While I can’t quite ever remember being quite this “busy” before (and trust me, I am not wearing busy as a badge of honor.  On me, the word “busy” burns more like the scarlet letter), I have had seasons of my life when I juggled many things.  I look back on my year of teaching when I was pregnant with Madeleine and working on my National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification and wonder how in the world I sat for a 3 hour essay test when I was 35 or 36 weeks pregnant.  I remember that picture I have of me sitting on the couch nursing Madeleine while I graded papers.    I remember rushing out of school to pick her up in time for daycare and using any spare moment I had at school to pump.  How in the world did I do that?

The season of just surviving the heat

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When Madeleine was a year old and I had just gotten pregnant with John, I quit teaching and started working for Curtis.  I struggled a bit that nine months with who I was now that I longer taught and with crazy, crazy pregnancy hormones.  Many tears were shed.  What had I lost by quitting in teaching?  What was my purpose in life?  What gave me meaning?  Where did all my friends go (work friends in particular who were now on a completely different schedule than myself)?

The season of dying and hibernation.DSCN0062

What a sharp contrast to when I no longer worked.  I scheduled my days, I craved routine because when it was just me and John and Madeleine, there didn’t seem to be a lot of routine.  Monday’s were laundry days.  Thursday was our play date day.  Friday was cleaning day.  Wednesday was grocery day.   I had a schedule for what I would deep clean each Friday, just so I had some schedule.

The season of dormancy.

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I spent a lot of time those years at home learning.  I read books and books on cooking.  I tackled complex baking projects and cooking projects because I desired to do something with my brain besides watching PBS Kids and trying to answer Madeleine’s constant barrage of questions. “What’s under the road, Mommy?” was asked every.single.time we got into the car.  I started digging deeply into my faith, strengthening my faith practices, learning more about the Bible and Bible history.  I started a food blog and a blog about how many family was growing for my out of state relatives who could only watch my children change from afar.  I started writing here, realizing I may have something to say that others wanted to listen to.

The season of growth.

Here I am again.  Back in the season of just surviving the heat.  That nice long season of growth that intermingled with the seasons of dying/hibernation and dormancy I have found is helping to sustain me.  I’ve done spring season with soccer, baseball, and soon to be added swimming enough years to know the overlap is short lived.  I can do it, even with extra time challenges this year.  Those years I spent collecting recipes on food blog provides me with many, many quick and easy recipes—recipes I can make ahead and freeze, or put in the crockpot before a game or practice and have a meal when we get home.  I’ve mastered the 45 minute meal (30 minute meal is a mythical creation, like a Yeti, a leprechaun, or dragons) that incorporates lots of vegetables from our CSA box.

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Those years of praying and reading also help me get through the long heat.  I know now, this is but a season.  I thought the season of my children being young would never pass.  It has.  My baby will be six in April.  Six.  He just participated in his first Math Pentathlon tournament, is learning how to read, and will be done with kindergarten in June.  I’m not quite sure how this has happened.  I thought acedia would torment me forever.  Not so.  My seasons of dying, hibernation, and dormancy have taught me how to thrive when things are changing–find time to read occasionally, find a close, small group of friends that let me drop in and out of their lives as my schedule allows, and continue to look for things to add to my ever growing thankful list.

I am gentler with myself now.  I’ve given myself (our family) permission to just not do everything, whether it’s skipping the math pentathlon awards or missing children’s choir rehearsals and an occasional Sunday morning church.  Sometimes I’m particularly whining about what is withering under this hot summer sun.  The next morning, though, I wake up and see the flowers that still linger from the spring and beauty that comes from heat.

Before I know it, the season will pass, whether it is due to the age of my children, the years of teaching experience I have collected again, or eventually retirement.  It is well.  It is well.  All manner of things are well.

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Happy International Woman’s Day

March 8, 2015

It is March 8, 2015.  This date has double significance.  First, it means that I need to have all papers graded and grades entered by Thursday morning, which means at this exact moment, I am procrastinating.  Second, and more importantly, it means that today is International Woman’s Day.IMG_2690

Here in the USA, we too often overlook this day.  Other than the interesting Google doodle that people glance at and momentarily wonder the significance, International Woman’s Day is ignored.  Why do we need to pay attention to International Woman’s Day?  Women have the same rights as men the US, right?  We vote, we drive (unlike in Saudi Arabia), we hold jobs outside our house, and we arrange our own marriages out of love, not after parental decisions.  We are not subject to female circumcision.  Our lives are pretty good, we think.

We forget.

We forget that those in faraway places are our sisters–sisters who are forced into marriage at 14 or 16 (or 12), sisters who can’t get loans, sister who aren’t allowed schooling, sisters who can’t drive cars, sisters who are circumcised sisters who die or are deformed from improper care in childbirth.  They are our sisters.  As they suffer, we should be aware of their sufferings and do something.

We forget.

We forget that even in the US, women are subjected to different standards than men.  Women are bossy or pushy, instead of demonstrating strong leadership skills like men.  Women are expected to dress in ways that encourage men to be respectful of them, instead of men being expected to be respectful of women no matter what they are wearing or what they have had to drink.  Women’s maternity leave and rights in the US are some of the smallest in the developed world.   Men and boys are excused for any trouble they may get into because “boys will be boys,” or “he is all boy.”  It is still an insult to be called a girl.

As long as my daughter feels like she needs to dress a certain way so the boys will stay play tag with her, we need International Woman’s Day.  As long as I hear stories about high school science teachers ignoring and being condescending to girls in their advanced classes, we need International Woman’s Day.  As long as women need to be airbrushed to be in magazines or advertisements, we need International Woman’s Day.  As long as women and girls are insulted for their appearance or being strong, we need International Woman’s Day.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28 NLT

We need International Woman’s Day to raise our voice and recognize that even in the US, there are still double standards and oppression against women.

A short booklist of influential or life changing books on women:

Half the Sky-Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (there is also a PBS documentary by the same name and a follow-up book/documentary:  A Path Appears).

Half the Church- Carolyn Custis James

Jesus Feminist-Sarah Bessey

Heart of Flesh -Joan Chittister

The Friendship of Women- Joan Chittister

 

Today, in addition to recognizing that we still have so far valuing women’s lives, opinions, and personalities as much as men’s, I am remembering all the women of valor (those Proverbs 31) women in my life.  As Rachel Held Evans, said in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, being a woman of valor doesn’t mean using Proverbs 31 as a checklist of the impossible tasks women are to complete.  Rather it is celebrating those valorous things the women around us do all the time–with strength of character and walking with God, whether it is taking care of a sick baby, nursing a child in the middle of the night, choosing not to have child, becoming a successful business woman, becoming a doctor or a pastor of a church, teaching, caring for others, making executive decisions for a household or business.  The list is endless.  I am thankful to have been surrounded by women of valor my entire life–spunky women, women of faith, women with a sense of humor, women who felt compelled to do something for someone, no matter how little or big.  Today, I honor them as well.

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Ashes and Minor Keys

February 21, 2015

DSC_5071Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

According to your great complassion, blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my inquity and cleanse me from my sin.

 

Of all the Holy days leading up to Easter, Ash Wednesday is my favorite.  The church, even at the noon service, is somber, quiet, and dark.  The hymns are often on the slow side and in a minor key.  I know it’s bit odd for my favorite service to remind me that I came from dust and will return to dust, but there is something reassuring about that.

I didn’t make it to church yesterday.

I struggled to figure out how to make it work.  Maybe a sitter for the boys so I could go while Curtis did the soccer carpool?  Then baseball practice was scheduled for that evening as well and I simply gave up.

For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. 

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

For Christmas, I received Sara Miles’s new book, City of God.  I eagerly read her book in January.  Miles describes in her book the development of their church’s Ash Wednesday outreach.  In late afternoon and early evening, Miles and others from her Episcopalian church head to the streets of the Mission district with ashes, to remind those who couldn’t make it to church that they would return to dust.

I was fascinated by their outreach, but at the same time questioned it.  Could ashes be given without a proper reading of Psalm 51?  Would the lack of somber hymns in minor keys diminish the meaning of the ashes?  Would the people really know what the ashes meant without a pastor to explain it to them?  How much of my Ash Wednesday experience that I loved was simply made up of fluff, instead of what really mattered?  What really did matter on Ash Wednesday—the administering of ashes or the church service surrounding it?  I wasn’t sure.  Was it simply a show?  Did you need to be a card carrying church member to get the ashes?

I didn’t make it to church for Ash Wednesday.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

On Wednesday, I checked out Micha Boyett’s, one of my favorite occasional bloggers, blog.  She had a repost for Ash Wednesday about an Ash Wednesday that didn’t quite go as planned a few years ago.  While that year, she did make it church, minus her husband, she remembered a year in which she didn’t.  Her husband was out of town and with two small boys, church just wasn’t going to happen.  Instead, she burned some leaves in the backyard and marked herself, stating the words to herself.  Her preschool aged son noticed and wanted the ashes as well, so she marked him, too.DSC_5082

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

It was bedtime before Curtis and I had a chance to check in with each other.  He hadn’t made it to church either.  We both lamented the fact that less than three hours were left in Ash Wednesday and we missed being marked with the cross, with a reminder of our humanity and our need for God.  We had talked about our Lenten practices for this year in passing earlier (at supper maybe? Or was it when we were filling up water bottles for practices?) and decided to read a Psalm together.

Curtis read aloud Psalm 51, the one I remembered being used at every Ash Wednesday service I’ve ever been to.  After he finished, I leaned over to him.  “Curtis, from dust you came and to dust you will return.”  Lacking ashes and being a little bit shy for some reason, I skipped marking his head with a cross.  He looked at me in the eyes.  “Melani, from dust you came and to dust you will return,” he replied as he made a cross on my forehead.

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

I didn’t make it to church for Ash Wednesday service.

Church happened in my house, without a pastor and without somber hymns in minor keys.  We remembered together where we came from and our ultimate end in the reading of Psalm 51 and simple words said over each other.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Italics are selected verses from Psalms 51

The Word for the Year

February 7, 2015

2015 has arrived.  I know your thinking, “Yes, Melani.  2015 arrived one month and one week ago.”  That it did.  I, however, spent the month the January on the slow recovery from the flu I had over Christmas and trying to keep (get) my kids healthy again.  Thus, only one month into the year, I failed at my goal for the year—to show up here and write once a month.

I am generally not one to give up though.  I am persistent (also translated as stubborn).  One failed or mediocre attempt isn’t generally enough to know me out.  Here I am at the beginning of February, sitting at the computer on Saturday morning when I should be at the grocery store, enjoying a slow (ish) morning drinking coffee in my pajamas.

When I made my goal of writing once a month, I wondered what I would write about when I sat down.  Would I contemplate the struggles of working outside the house full-time for the first time in 8 years?  Would I spend the whole post telling about the occasional book I’ve read, the restaurant I ate at, or the one awesome meal I made for the month?  I am still not sure of my purpose for writing.  I only know that the process of sitting down to write is part of who I am.  I am slowly trying to add in one lost thing back into my life at a sustainable rate. I am trying to reclaim pieces of myself that I was forced to leave behind when I returned to teaching.

So here I am.  I am writing–without a plan.IMG_3062

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Anytime there is a major life transition–moving, new job, new baby, a break-up, or an illness for yourself or a loved one, we switch into survival mode.  I figure out what I need to get to bedtime that night, the end of the week, or the next day off.  I grit my teeth and settle in.  Once upon a time (maybe quitting my job and having baby number 2), I realized that writing was one of those things that made surviving a tad easier.  Even longer before that, I discovered when stress set it, I stopped singing.  More recently (baby number 3), I discovered I needed to bake.  Through all of those times, I learned that somehow I needed to find a way to keep learning new things and keep creating things.

That’s why I am drawn to teaching.  There is no shortage of learning new things  (Electrical circuits!!!) or creating (Lesson planning!!!).  My book reading is switching back to fiction, because of my need for an escape.  (I can’t totally leave the nonfiction genre–it’s just taking me longer and I’m more selective.  Anything by Malcolm Gladwell is always on my list–Tipping Point currently–along with a few of my favorite Christian authors like Rachel Held Evans, Sara Miles, Sarah Bessey, and Jen Hatmaker’s new releases).

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DSC_3930If I would have one word for the year, it would probably be Intentional or Flexibility or maybe even Gentleness.  I know this year I am not the same teacher I was 8 years ago–it would be impossible for me to be.  I know this year I am not doing as much at home as I did a year ago–our house is generally not spotless (it wasn’t spotless a year ago, but it’s a bit worse now) and my projects keep piling up.  I am not exercising like I should be (like at all) and my quiet time is now crammed into my morning reading as I inhale my cereal or into Madeleine’s Celtic prayers at night.  Things don’t look like they did a year ago.  I’ve had to let things go and be happy with good enough instead of great.  That’s a hard thing to do.  My expectations for myself are high and I find I measure up very little.  My thankful list template still sits on my computer, waiting to be taken to the printers to be printed.  Last December reminds me of my failure every time I go to the fridge.  I leave it there though, to remind me that the printers is still on my to do list:  it is still my intention.

Gentleness.

Gentleness when I look longing at my chair where I spent time praying and reading the Bible.  Gentleness when I am close to tears because I am dragging the kids on an errand after school because I just can’t bear to be apart from them another minute.  Gentleness when I am hard on myself because I am frustrated when they are sick and upset because I am leaving their sick, pitiful selves with some one other than parent.  Gentleness when I teach Sunday School and I know it is a half-hearted effort.  Gentleness when I leave my name on the church committee, but wonder if I will ever make it to a meeting.  Gentleness when I look at my bike hanging in the garage and wince because adding exercise to my weekend increases my stress level exponentially.  Gentleness when I open the scrapbooking box and feel bad because I have no idea when I will ever finish the started scrapbooks.

Gentleness it is, I guess.

Because the flip sides of all those apparent failures are achievements–I found a prayer and meditation that fit into my life.  I am slowly trying to fit in other moments of prayers and words to remind me what centers me.  I love my children and want to be with them.  I can check on my children easily at school when they go to school feeling a bit pitiful (but have been 24 hours fever free).  Preparing for my pathetic attempt at teaching Sunday School reminded me of the importance of corporate and regular prayers.  I am still passionate about adult curriculum and want to be involved.  Knowing that while I may not exercise this weekend, some weekend I will get on my bike again and it will be wonderful.  Being reassured that someday those scrapbooks may happen and whatever I complete will remind my children exactly how loved they are.

Gentleness.

We all need a little a more gentleness with ourselves and with each other.

Gentleness.

Thankful

November 16, 2014

IMG_3303It’s November.

The past two or three years (or however long I’ve been here), I have attempted to post every single day in November about things I am thankful.  It’s been a good reminder to me to spend my time showing gratitude and it’s kept my heart a bit lighter.  Knowing I will need to be publicly thankful for something at the end of the day made me be sure to find at least one thing to be thankful for (and you know, no matter what your life’s situation is, somedays that is hard).

This year, I am midway through November and I have yet to be publicly thankful once.  I am realizing it’s not just me.  In years past, my Facebook feed would be full of November thankful.  It seems like I am not the only one who has not taken the time to write down my thankfuls.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I haven’t been thankful this month.  My list on my fridge is growing by the day.  The words and energy to write though have eluded me.  Today, there is nothing stopping me.  It’s Sunday.  I have pot of tea made and I am cozy wearing my alma mater sweatshirt and sitting in my adequately heated (and insulated) house.

DSC_4862I have so much to be thankful for this year.  Mostly, I am thankful for my family.  This fall has been a bit of a transition.  From not working outside the house at all to working fall time has been a leap for all of us.  I am thankful beyond words for Curtis.  Curtis has adjusted his schedule to take John to his doctor’s appointments for his broken arm (oh, yes, another broken arm happened this fall) and do Madeleine’s soccer carpools.  He’s played lead parent at school, showing up for events I used to, volunteering for things, and learning to know some other school parents.  He’s encouraged me to go shopping, to update my not-have-to-leave-the-house -more-than-twice-a-week wardrobe, applauding me when I spend more money than I am comfortable with (which, for the record, isn’t a lot…I don’t like spending money.  period.).  In the evenings, Curtis has put up with my hours of school work I do, some of which renders me relatively uncommunicative because I kinda need to think when I’m grading kids’ writings.  On the weekends, he’s transitioned from the slower, lazy weekends of the past to the slightly harried errand filled Saturdays (a family’s got to eat!).  Curtis has supported me in every imaginable way possible, from taking more responsibilities around the house to listening to my overwhelmed, tear-filled occasional breakdowns.  I am so thankful to have had Curtis by my side this fall, being my greatest cheerleader and my greatest support.

DSC_4677I am thankful for my kids as well.   Madeleine, especially, has been very vocal in not being thrilled with the changes in our family’s routine.  Yet, she and the boys have rolled with it.  She and John have become more responsible, completing homework first–perched in corners of my classroom after school–before asking for some computer time before we leave school.  They know it’s their job to unload the dishwasher and they generally do it– in fact, they’ve got quite a system worked out.  Their schedule has been turned upside down–I no longer bring them lunches at school or go on their field trips, but Isaac gets to give me hug everyday when I pass him in the hall after his lunch.  He’s adapted to his after school care beautifully, and I am thankful for his outgoing, social personality that makes that transition so easy for him.

I am thankful for my job.  It happened so fast and it took awhile for me to get used to the idea of going to work every day.  The curriculum has changed a bit (understatement!!!) in the past eight years I was out.  My teammates are beyond wonderful.  They’ve accepted me and made me feel welcomed.  They answer my constant barrage of questions with more patience than I think I have.  They put up with my mistakes and my general cluelessness.  They help me plan my lessons and negotiate through all the new software I am using.  They answer my 6 am texts when I wake up sick and have no idea what the procedures are for calling in sick.  On top of all that, they’re fun, they make me laugh, and I love eating lunch with them every single work day.  I can’t imagine working with a better team.

I am thankful for my kids’ teachers as well.  Every single one of them is fabulous this year.  My middle child, who hated school last year, is thriving this year thanks to his classroom teacher and his reading teacher, finally getting the reading support he needs. My oldest and youngest both have wonderful teachers who love teaching and children and appreciate my kids for the unique people they are.

I am thankful for my friends.  They’ve let me drop off the face of the earth because sometimes I. just.couldn’t.  They went out with me when I told them the crazy idea that I may teach again this fall.  They’ve let me be tired and grumpy and not very talkative sometimes.  They check in with me.  They listen to my teacher stories, which I know really aren’t interesting to many people beyond the teachers that know the kids.  They’ve been there when I’ve been ready to reemerge.  They are patient for me to return their texts until my planning time.  They haven’t let me disappear into the working world.DSC_4715

I am thankful for October and November in Texas, for weather reports being wrong, for cold, rainy days, for perfect camping weekends, and for the chance to be in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in October to see the leaves in their fall splendor.  IMG_3398

Although I may not post every day what I am thankful for, I am still thankful.  My list could go on and on, especially on this dreary cold Sunday afternoon, that John has warmed by lighting candles for me.  The butternut squash is simmering on the stove and we are eating soup again this night.  I think I may even get to bake and I may just take a break from lesson plans to ice those salted caramel pumpkin cupcakes I am dreaming of making.

Dropping in to Say Hi

October 28, 2014

IMG_3413My friends, I miss you.  I really do.  It’s been all of September and most of October since you’ve heard from me.  Thank you to those who periodically check in on my over here at this blog.  I check it everyone in awhile, because I miss it.  There in the top dashboard/tool bar, it tells me.  About once a week or so, someone checks in on me.  Maybe to see if I’m still here or maybe it’s to see if I published something without publicizing it on Facebook.  I haven’t though.  I’ve been silent.

This self-imposed silence has been for a good reason.  Really.

Instead of writing, I’ve been teaching fourth graders to write.  I’ve convinced a few hesitant writers, who were known to put their heads on their desks and cry at the beginning of the year because they just couldn’t write, to write eagerly.  I’ve encouraged masterful writers, who take one suggestion and run with it, to write more beautifully–better than I could at fourth grade (and probably more descriptively than I even can now).  In the evenings, in my spare time, I am reading children’s writing instead of doing my own.  It’s made me happy.

This road to teaching is a story to tell.  One of these days (winter break?) I’ll get to it.  The short story is that when God starts opening doors, I’ve learned it’s smartest to just walk on through them, even though I have no idea how things will work out.  The long story is, well, longer.

I just wanted to check in with y’all and let you know I haven’t gone away forever.  I have intentions of being back.  I have stories to tell and saints (Grandma’s) to remember.  I have thoughts on juggling it all.  I’ve read a couple of books even and have managed to eat out a little bit (thanks to two days worth of training).

With that I am off.  Supper (a Thai beef curry) is simmering on the stove for supper and I need to clean up a little around this kitchen before it’s supper time.  In my laptop bag (I have a laptop now!!!  And a work e-mail address!!! Craziness!!!), I have descriptive writing on a character and matter foldables to grade.  These moments of silence are fleeting,

It’s all good here though.  My 8 years worth of work at home has been worth it.  Reading Benedict the past six months have reminded to approach this new venture with humility.  I remember, as often as I can, that I was not brought to where I am to be ignored. I trust the God that has brought this change to my life will continue to be present with me.  IMG_3410

What I Was Up to this Month-August Edition

August 30, 2014

August firmly planted us back in Austin.  We prolonged summer as long as possible and then dove into the new school year.

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Someone had a birthday!  I made the cake–Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba cake.  It’s the perfect size for our family and one of our favorites.

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My cousin came to visit for not quite a week.  We did some very “Austin” things, like watch the Mexican Freetail Bats emerge, right across the lake from downtown.  It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen the bats emerge–it’s awe-inspiring and breathtaking every time.

 

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Someone did her first ever triathlon.  She chose not to train and still had a great time.  We’ll see if she ever decides to do another one.  We were super proud of her and her 47th place finish!

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We fit in a short weekend at the lake with friends.  It was worth every minute of the four hour drive in the car whose air conditioning chose to go the day we left (nothing like driving without ac when it’s 100 degrees out).  DSC_4528

Oh yes, that’s me tubing for the first time ever.  Forty isn’t too old to try things for the first time.  I loved it, but was sore for a couple of days.
DSC_4634And then…school started.  Off we went, all on our bikes.  I used the bike trailer just the first morning to lug the grocery bags full of school supplies.  Biking to school makes me (and the boys) happy.

Books:

It was an unusual month in that every single book I read I rated five stars on Goodreads.  Crazy good reading luck this month.

The Rule of Benedict:  A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister.  I’ve been reading this book since the beginning of May and will finish it on August 31.  Chittister uses St. Benedicts rule which was written 1500 years ago as the basis for four months of daily readings and reflections.  This has been a life changing book (more on that next time).  I loved it so much, I convinced Curtis to read it.  I found the reflections on humility particularly difficult (I can’t imagine why).  I will be starting this book again on Sept 1.

Walking Home:  A Poet’s Journey by Simon Armitage.  I enjoyed this book.  Armitage wrote about his decision and consequential walk on the Pennine Way, a 265 mile route connecting Scotland and England.  Armitage’s humor kept me interested in the book and I loved his descriptions.  I actually read this book at the beginning of July and forgot to add to July’s book list.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin.  This was our book club pick for the month.  I found the book quite enjoyable and thought about it for several days afterwards.  The story jumps between the story of a slave woman who wanted to escape and the lawyer who was contemplating her own future paths.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley.  This the third book in the Flavia de Luce series.  I liked this book more than the previous one and I remain a Falvia de Luce fan.

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit.  I never imagined I would like this book, even after I started it.  The voice is strange–I’ve never read a book written in first person plural before (a collective we).  I found it difficult to read at first because of the lack of an identifiable main character, however as I got used to the book’s format, I found the story intriguing.  I had never given much thought to the wives of the men who developed The Bomb.

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road:  Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian McLaren.  I must admit, it’s kinda boring to write about all the books I liked this month.  I start feeling like a broken record.  This was a thought provoking book which encouraged me to think about how I share my faith (and what “kind” of Christian I am) in a different way.

Food:

I made up for lost summer eating out in about 2 weeks time.

Eastside King Hole in the Wall…yum.  I love Eastside King.  Hole in the wall has a similar trailer to their food truck, with the addition of ramen.  BTW, one of Eastside King’s food trailers was named one of the top ten new restaurants in the US last year.  Oh yeah.  I believe it.

Yeti Frozen Custard.  As far as frozen custard goes, this was fair to middlin’.  As far as the dessert I ordered went, it was fabulous!  I am picky about my frozen custard.  Frozen custard should me more than just soft serve ice cream.  Froze custard should have a rich, eggy taste and be smooth (not gritty or full of ice crystals).  The consistency of this was fine, but the taste was bland.  However, I ordered something special that with chocolate custard–chocolate custard plus Reese’s peanut butter cups, caramel sauce, pretzels and whipped cream.  That was mighty tasty.

Sway.  Favorite restaurant find of the month.  We went here for one of our two dates of the entire summer and it was worth being one of the dates.  Yummy, yummy Thai fusion food.  We got the tom kun soup and the stir fry with pears and brussels sprouts.  Fabulous!

IMG_3214Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza.  Normally, Curtis and I only really celebrate each other’s birthdays on years that are multiple of tens.  This year though, I was feeling like celebrating.  We drove out in the edge of the hill country to a ranch to eat pizza (also the home of Jester King Brewery).   Three other families joined us.  Our eleven crazy kids ran around, played in sand, and busted rocks while we enjoyed wonderful wood fire pizza and beer (and lemonade for those of  us driving).  Not often do I name things perfect.  This was perfect.  Good food, good friends.

drink.well.  This had the good friends part going for it.  That’s about it.  Food was definitely meh.  It was an mid-range (cost wise) restaurant where you ordered at the bar, which was a bit strange.  Won’t be going back or recommending this popular North Central place.

Dang Bahn Mi.  Another yum.  Very rarely can I go wrong with Asian food, in particular bahn mi sandwiches or ramen.  This order at the counter place opened in mid July up on the North part of town.  I had several incredibly busy days with no appetite, so this seemed like a good option.  The vegetables on their sandwiches were incredible.  And their Vietnamese ice coffee….see the picture below.  This happened then I poured it over ice I served myself.

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plus Ramen Tatsu-yaRoyer’s Pie Haven, and The Noble Pig again.  Still love all three of those places.  I’ve probably gotten 4 things off of Noble Pig’s small menu and have loved every one of them.  This time it was the curried egg salad sandwich.  Yum.  Tatsu-ya and Royer’s never disappoint me either (all though I wish the crusts at Royer’s had more flavor and not so much of the bland vegetable shortening taste).

 

Everything Else

We watched some movies, most of which I can’t remember.  My twenty year old cousin came into town so we had 80’s movies education nights.  We started with Weekend at Bernie’s (which I think the parts are funnier than the whole).  We also watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which was just as delightful now as it was twenty to thirty years (!!!) ago.  Curtis and I watched Her, which I think I liked.  At the very least it was thought provoking.  We tried to watched Anchorman 2, but were unsuccessful–it just wasn’t funny.  Our kids watched all four of the Spy Kids movies, which they loved, but I thought were nothing fabulous.  I listened to Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth a lot–it’s my stress music.

That’s it.  It was chockfull.

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